Shopping for Shoes: “Looking Back”

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

Shopping for shoes was always a special occasion. We usually had to have new shoes in the fall when school started because our feet grew while we were running barefoot all summer. We also had to have new dress shoes in the spring to match that perfect Easter outfit Mom had picked out at Jack and Jill’s.

Blue Ribbon Shoes is the downtown shoe store we went to most of the time. I particularly remember Mr. James “Boogie” Loyd, Mrs. Naomi Nutter and later, Jimmy Loyd helping us pick out the shoes. The visit usually started with one of them using that silver thing with a slide measure to determine our shoe size.

Display shoes were on the shelves for us to look at but if we wanted to try on a particular shoe, they had to go into the back storeroom to get our size. Then we would sit in the blue chairs and try on the shoes. If we chose the right brand, we might even get a golden egg when we checked out.

James Loyd bought the shoe store at 1012 Oak Street in 1948 from Mrs. Horace Preston Barham, Sr. Sample Shoe Store, as it was originally called, had been run by the Barhams since 1920. When H.P. Barham first went to work for Sample Shoes, it was located on Front Street and was owned by J.J. Freeman. The Barhams bought the store in 1939 and moved it to the Oak Street location in 1941.

The building was owned by George Crye, Loyd’s father in law, and the two men would partner with J.R. Ott to incorporate Blue Ribbon Shoes. Loyd also owned a Blue Ribbon Shoe store in Morrilton. In 1963, Vida Helen Crye Loyd bought out J.R. Ott’s shares of the business. “Boogie” Loyd would fit shoes there for 32 years until his death in 1980.

Jim and Terry Loyd would run the store from 1973 until it closed in 1998. Multiple generations were fitted for shoes at Blue Ribbon. The store also had the distinction of providing the shoes for the cast of “9/30/55,” a movie about the death of James Dean that was filmed in Conway.

In addition, Blue Ribbon supplied shoes for stage productions at Hendrix College, the University of Central Arkansas, Conway High School and the Arkansas Arts Center. The store also sold shoes to many a bride, prom-goer and pageant participant. The Loyds also did fashion consulting for parties, special occasions and style shows.

The other major shoe store downtown was Dryer’s Shoe Store, an independent chain store that originated in Mountain Grove, Missouri in the 1920s. Dale Dryer brought the store, with multiple locations in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma, to Conway in the mid-1960s.

Dryer took over an existing shoe store that had been in downtown Conway since 1932. Conway Shoe Store, located at 912 Front, was started by T.C. Heuer who owned the building formerly occupied by W.D. Cole Grocery. In 1936, Heuer sold the business to W.E. Jumper, his daughter, Ruth; his son, Jack; and Jess Dempsey.

Jumper purchased the building from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation in 1938. Dempsey sold his interest three years later. Ruth and Jack Jumper bought out their father’s interest in the business in 1948 but he remained owner of the building. They then sold the business to David Heuer and Otis Wilson in 1957. Dryer bought the building as well as the business when he came to Conway.

Dryer Shoe Store remained in the historic building on Front Street until 1994 when it moved to the Conway Towne Center. Randy Dryer, who joined his father in the business in 1979, located another of his businesses, Workforce Boots, in the former downtown location for a while. The building, which still bore the name Conway Shoe Store at the top, stood vacant for several years until it was recently demolished to make way for John Daly’s Steakhouse and The Lofts.

One final shoe store in the downtown area was Monday-Powell Shoes. The business was at 922 Front Street until 1957 when it relocated on the southwest corner of Chestnut and Oak in the former Grand Theatre building. Raymond Powell and his wife, Virginia Monday Powell, along with her sister, Mary Tennessee Monday, co-owned the store for more than 30 years. After retirement, the three moved to Pleasant Hills Retirement Center in Little Rock.

Today shoppers can purchase shoes in through a variety of venues but once upon a time, shopping for shoes meant personalized service from our favorite clerk at our favorite store. They knew us just as well as our barbers and beauticians and that is why we fondly remember shopping for shoes.